Saturday, April 2, 2011

Stacey Rozich

{Goat Man and a Warning of Doom by Stacey Rozich}

I am a huge fan o Seattle-based artist Stacey Rozich, whose work is currently showing in Milwaukee at the Union Art Gallery as a part of the show Cautionary Tales & a solo show at Sky High Gallery.  I was able to catch up with her a bit ago to interview her on her art and Milwaukee and the two shows.  Her art is a treat to be seen, I highly recommend getting out to look ::: the shows will not be up for much longer.  Make haste!  Here she sheds a little light on the mystery and obscure nature of her work.  She offers a few hints, but no spoiler alert needed.  Read and enjoy.

Question:  Of course your work has obvious themes of ritual, performance and costume – can you discuss your fascination with this and its continued reoccurrence?
Stacey Rozich:  I’m fascinated with how many cultures from around the world have the common thread of those three elements.  I will be looking at books of Bulgarian Kukeri festival monsters and then switch over to the brightly-colored textile suits of Ghana or Burkina Faso and see that both cultures have a deep history of personifying stories in costumes and ritual.  I’m also a big sucker for patterning and texture along with storytelling, so it was a natural progression for me to fuse these elements into something I’m proud of and put a lot of passion into.

Q:  Can you talk about your use of symbolism and the reoccurrence of birds, snakes, masks, tools, etc.
SR:  The symbolism is a byproduct of my research into the folklore of different cultures.  While I talk of the commonality of ritual and traditions from different indigenous groups, there are always minute details that set them apart so greatly.  A lot of Southwest Native American art has symbols that convey nature and animals in geometric shapes and lines that are so wonderful but also carry a deeper mysterious quality that you feel is larger than you. 

Q:  I read in an interview you gave to My Love for You that you are not of Native American decent, although growing up in the Pacific Northwest you were exposed to a lot of art form the native cultures there.  Can you talk a little about borrowing from other cultures and your fascination with it?  What cultures are you influenced by to produce the body of work now showing in Milwaukee?
SR:  It can be a touchy subject to borrow deep-rooted imagery from different cultures, but I always make sure to never out-right copy anything, to always re-imagine it through the lense of my current style.  I’m greatly influenced by Eastern European folklore, West African tribal costumes and Native American color palettes.  It’s a wide gamut that concocts a deep and sometimes bizarre narrative that I only see growing.

Q:  Costumes are an obscenely vast field – How much research goes into the planning of each piece or does most of it come from your head?
SR:  I keep my tabs on certain images that pique my curiosity, file them away for future reference and bring them out to take cues from when I’m ready to commit to a certain figure.  Although sometimes I can see common themes developing in patterns I use, which I try to shake myself out of if it becomes a nuisance. 

Q:  There is a lot of impending violence and a somewhat creepy quality that comes with masked faces and shadowed eyes.  Is this intentional or a byproduct of working with masks and ceremonial garb?  Because it is so repetitious in your work, can you talk about the feeling you are trying to evoke?
SR:  I think working with bright colors and benign-looking animal masks compel me to explore the deeper, darker side of my spirits.  There are two sides to every story and I see this in my work.  I want to evoke mystery in these figures – perhaps it’s not always friendly animal faces that are looking at you, rather a bringer of bad omens. 

Q: The use of proportion is especially jarring because a lot of your figures look like either children in costume or small demons – obviously the scenes evoke a sort of fantasy land, but can you discuss your choice to play with scale as well as the fantasy they are acting out?
SR:  The scale of my figures is something I’m very conscious of portraying.  You are right – the smaller figures are often the demon, the bogie, the creature that causes mischief to the humans they cohabitate with.

Q:  Can you talk a little about your color pallet?
SR:  It’s ever changing to this day, but I consistently use deep red and black.  There is something about those two colors that read so deeply to me.  They show depth and darkness, confidence and strength.  I do take a lot of inspiration from fashion collections, most notably Spring 2011 Jonathan Saunders that featured vivid orange, white, beige, bright minty-green and deep aqua.  I like to keep my textiles fresh with research into current fashion lines that I feel hold a timelessness and can translate into folklore. 

Q:  Your work has definitely caught the eye of the creative community in Milwaukee – I have noticed a lot of your pieces have sold, not to mention the great coverage in local press.  Can you discuss what advantages & disadvantages you have in smaller art markets like Milwaukee?
SR:  I was surprised and ecstatic my pieces have sold so well in a city I had no real experience with.  It’s always a gamble when I ship work out to a new city.  There is always the question if it will be successful as it is in the Northwest or the West Coast.  One of the best things about showing in a place like Milwaukee is that it’s a small art community, but it seems close knit and supportive and thing spread by word-of-mouth, which is an obvious advantage for lesser-known artists like myself.  One of the disadvantages is that while its size is good for me to get my feet wet, it doesn’t lend the most exposure.  But, in this case it isn’t much of a concern because the feedback from Milwaukeeans has been wonderful that it has only strengthened my work ethic. 

Q:  Can you talk about the internet and the advantages you have as an artist today?
SR:  Oh boy, where would I be without the Internet?  I gave a talk to a couple of art classes at Seattle Pacific University and I made sure to stress the importance of marketing yourself as an artist, illustrator or designer via the internet because it’s been very good to me and many artists I know.  It is such an amazing, uncontrollable beast.  If you have a platform to expose your work to the masses like a blog or website or Flickr, then it is bound to reach someone, somewhere in the world.  Maybe its one person who enjoys a post so they’ll repost it and before you know it’s showing up on a massive creative forum like or, which a lot of creative directors and curators check.  It’s the blind snowball effect that you really don’t know about until you find your work floating around some 6 months after you put it up.  It’s a strange and gratifying feeling, one that I couldn’t imagine having if I was trying to do the same thing 10 years ago.  I would have to hustle a lot more to get my work seen: sending out physical mailers, going to meet-and-greets, being as social as possible to make sure my work is known.  Not to say I’m a complete hermit now; on the contrary I am a very social person, but I do enjoy relative anonymity with the success of my work on the Internet.  It leaves more time for eating party subs in bed while watching 30 rock.

Q:  I hear you just quit your day job – congratulations!  Are you stoked, nervous, confident?
SR:  It’s been about two and a half months and I haven’t even thought about that job once.  Well, maybe a couple of times to think back on all of the crazy demands I put up with as a restaurant server.  It’s been wonderful, working for myself.  I’m forced to be better with my money because I don’t have a guaranteed paycheck coming every two weeks.  I am confident, but sometimes I am stricken with suffocating anxiety about my future, but it’s tempered by self-discipline and the ability to quiet my negative thoughts.  I think I learned that from taking my fears to my parents and my father always calming me down by saying, “You know it will work out, it always does.  This too shall pass.”  And it always does!  Thanks, pops.

Read the review I wrote on Printshop Forever.  Click!

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